Life’s Short, Learn Capoeira

photo copy 63Yesterday was a Walking Dead kind of day. I felt like a zombie, after 48 hours of non-stop action.

The craziness started on Saturday, with a surprise road trip to Athens, GA for my friend Melissa’s 40th birthday party. And then there was the 550 mile drive to Vero Beach on Sunday, that took longer than it should have, and kept us all up until 2 AM. Which would have been no big deal, if I had been able to sleep it off. But no…there was an early morning wake up call from landscapers, trimming palm trees with chain saws, outside my bedroom window yesterday morning at 7 AM.

Of course, the girlies never heard the chain saws, and slept until 9 AM. They recovered well from our late night, but I was definitely not myself. Instead of our normal play on the beach/swim at the pool/play at the park vacation routine, we parked ourselves at the pool for the entire day. It was all I could handle, or so I thought…

As late afternoon rolled around, I remembered that it was Monday. And the Capoeira (pronounced cup-where-uh) class I had been planning to take with my family, would take place tonight. I knew we should go, even though I was really, really tired, and didn’t feel like dancing.

This crazy healthy life has taught me that good things happen when I show up, even when I don’t feel like it. And learning how to dance like this must certainly be worthwhile, right?

Isn’t that amazing?

It was 6 PM when remembered my intention to get the girls to Capoeira, and the class started at 8 PM. I texted hubby (who had been working at his Vero office all day), packed up the pool bag, rushed home for a quick dinner, and got our messy selves to the Capoeira class, just in time to shake it like the Brazilians.

And thank God we did, because it was AWESOME. Seriously, the most fun I have ever had with my family. Here’s what it looked like:

 

The dancers were welcoming, and I fell madly in love with the teacher, a wonderful, 60 year old African-Brazilian man with dreadlocks, named Xodo (pronounced show-doe). I want to adopt him and take him back to Atlanta. The dancers were awesome, too. So encouraging, and ready for anything.

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The history behind this art is rich: Capoeira was created in the 1800s by slaves in Brazil, as a form of martial arts. The goal was to teach self-protection, but they had to make it took like a game, so that they slave owners would not prohibit it’s practice. The result is a beautiful, empowering art, that has lived on for centuries. It might look difficult, but it’s actually very simple in practice.

When we dance Capoeira, we keep hands in front of our faces, and our eyes on our opponents, asserting ourselves with awareness, staying low and tight, and constantly react to every move. It’s all about awareness and movement. Kinda like partner yoga, but much faster and louder! There are also times that we chant, clap and show off our craziest dance moves.

The class was fantastic. We laughed, and danced, and banged sticks on the floor, and lived in our bodies for 90 minutes. With strangers. But it didn’t matter that we were strangers–we connected on the love of movement. It was primal, and so incredibly joyful! I really can’t wait to try it again.

If you get to Vero Beach, find Abada Capoeira and dance with them. If you can’t get to Vero, find a Capoeira troupe near you and run, don’t walk, to the next class. You will be glad you did–the best kind of crazy healthy fun. 
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3 Things To Stop Doing Now, To Feel Better Next Week

Feeling off balance? Run down? Depressed? When it feels like there is nothing we can do to feel better, we can find hope in discontinuing habits that inhibit our health and happiness. Here’s three things that you can stop doing now, to feel better in a week or less:

1. Stop scheduling your workouts. Those people who never seem to worry about their weight, and always look strong and healthy? They have a secret. They don’t schedule their workouts…they just exercise whenever they can, sometimes 2-3 times a day, in 10-30 minute increments. They know that working out is hard by design, but have embraced the benefit it provides. The fabulously fit do not think of exercise as something they do…it’s just who they are! So, if you want to feel healthier next week, skip the Groupon for 20 classes at the yoga studio you can’t seem to get to, and learn how to practice yoga at home. Or keep a workout bag with you at all times, and go for 10 minute runs 2-3 times a day. And practice yoga poses during your lunch hour, in your work clothes (no mat necessary–think chair pose, forward fold, side stretches). It’s so much easier to squeeze in 10 minutes of yoga poses three times a day, than a 75 minute class 3 times a week. It’s also harder to reconcile skipping it, when it’s not taking a huge chunk of time out of our days.

2. Stop eating out. The inconvenient truth is that most restaurants are not in the business of helping people get healthy. They are in the business of selling food. To do this successfully, they must cut costs wherever possible. This often means serving food that has been preserved, genetically modified, artificially colored, and artificially flavored. Because restaurants are not legally required to share what is in their food, you can never be 100% sure that what you eat in restaurants aligns with the standards you keep at home. That doesn’t mean you should never eat out, just do so with awareness, think of it as a treat, and avoid it during the times when you are not feeling your best. Nutrient-dense, chemical-free foods prepared at home will serve you better (and save you money!).

3. Stop eating foods with added sugars. Sugar is a highly addictive substance–as addictive as heroin! The more we consume, the more we crave, and the harder it becomes to detoxify our bodies. Our bodies are designed to get the sugar they need from real foods (not the fake, processed stuff), so added sugars are unnecessary, and can be highly toxic, even in small amounts. Excess sugar in our diet causes depression and mood swings, affects our ability to make decisions, lowers immunity, and puts excess strain on our hearts. Trust me–you will feel much better if you get the processed sugary foods out of the house, and address your sugar cravings with foods from the earth. Ayurveda teachers that bitter and sour fruits, such as grapefruit and pomegranate, can stop a sugar craving in its tracks (it works for me every time!). If you’re not into the bitter/sour thing, though, strawberries, cherries and mango are great options when we just have to have something sweet…just enjoy with awareness, and in moderation.

For more tips and inspiration to get healthy and stay healthy this summer, join My Crazy Healthy Life  on Facebook and  join our 100 Days of Crazy Healthy Challenge! It’s FREE until Labor Day!

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photo: pouted.com

Why Does It Take 100 Days To Get Crazy Healthy?

Summer 1998–After breaking my shoulders in a car crash, I could not lift my arms above my waist. I had to ask for help dozens of times each day, to reach things I needed. What I remember most, though, is not being able to wash my own hair. Hubby washed it for me, all summer long. It was frustrating, to not be able to do something so simple, that I had hardly thought about, until I lost mobility in my upper body.

It took years of consistent yoga practice to reclaim my flexibility in my shoulders. In the beginning, I thought the goal was to get back to where I was before the crash, but I was wrong. Something even better was waiting for me, when I embraced yoga as a lifestyle.

Little by little, I reclaimed my mobility. It made me happy, and made me thirsty for more. I wondered what would happen, if I kept doing the work, and kept trusting the struggle. Could I actually be more flexible than I was before the crash? Stronger? Happier?

The more I surrendered to the poses, the greater the rewards became. Learning the poses and reclaiming my flexibility was not the end game…something even better was beyond the goal.

This is why our summer challenge is 100 days long. The best things in life are cumulative, and earned little by little. Friendships, careers, faith, health, proficiency in the arts and sports, happiness–all of these have many levels that must be acquired over time. Patanjali, author of the Yoga Sutras, says it best:

“It is only when the correct practice is followed for a long time, without interruptions and with a quality of positive attitude and eagerness, that it can succeed.”

This photo, taken last month in Vero Beach, FL is a reminder of what happens when we practice crazy healthy for a long time, with awareness and commitment. There are no shortcuts to crazy healthy, only daily reconciliations with who we are, and what we want out of life.

Broken bones were my greatest barrier to reclaiming my health after the crash. What’s your greatest barrier today? No matter what it might be, there is a way to move past it. If I can do it, anyone can.

Join me for 100 Days of Crazy Healthy, and trust the process. You can start any time you’d like, but don’t put it off. Reject the voices that tell you it’s not important, it won’t work, it’s too difficult to change, or you don’t have time. These thoughts are founded in false beliefs, and bred by fear.

Seek the truth and believe that you can. Something bigger than your dreams is waiting on the other side.

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100 Days of Crazy Healthy

This summer, my family and I will take the 100 Days of Crazy Healthy Challenge! Are you in? We will take 14 weeks and 2 days to get our crazy healthy on, adding a few new habits to our lives each week. If you join us before the middle of June, by the end of the summer, you will have created your own personal daily yoga practice, and learned how to incorporate a nutrient-dense, 90/10 diet into your busy schedule.

Here’s how it will work:

Use the search tool or category cloud on my blog to find the posts for 100 Days of Crazy Healthy. I’ve posted the first four weeks’ assignments early, so you can get an idea of how it will work. I will post the rest of the assignments once a week, beginning June 9th.

The work will not seem like much for the first month, and that is on purpose. Some of it may seem too simple to make a difference, and some of it will feel boring. You will feel resistance, and that is normal. Your brain will say,

I don’t have time.

I don’t like this!

This is hard!

It’s not that important.

This isn’t going to work.

Reject those voices and do it anyway. I promise, 100 Days of Crazy Healthy will change your life, if you just do it.

Who should participate:

Everyone! It doesn’t matter if you are really out of shape, or if you have practiced yoga for 20 years, you will benefit from this challenge. It will force you out of your comfort zone, and breed curiosity about what is possible. I am going to do it with you, and I already know it will make me uncomfortable. The way I will teach you to exercise and eat is derived from my experiences getting healthy, but it’s not how I live today. It’s more basic and more repetitive. This will be hard for me, because my yoga practice and eating habits are more intuitive, than structured, these days. But I will do it, every day, because I know that getting back to basics will raise my awareness, and reveal new opportunities to be healthier.

How much time will it take?

Not much. The self-care and nutrition habits are incremental, taking only 1-5 minutes per day. The yoga practice will start out at 5 minutes, and build to 30-45 minutes (it will be up to you to decide how long you stay on your mat). Preparing meals may take a little longer at first, but you will learn to create efficiencies over time.

What do I need to participate?

All you need is a yoga mat, a music player (speaker, etc.), a blender, some coconut oil, an open mind, and faith that this challenge will change your life.

What are the rules?

1. Do whatever it takes.You must complete your weekly homework assignment every day, before you go to bed. It’s best to do your yoga first thing each day, but it’s ok to do it at night as well. Even if you forget, and only remember after you’ve turned off the light at bedtime, get back up and do your practice. If you miss a day, double up the next day. If you miss three days, triple up when you remember.

2. Trust the struggle. Listen to the stories in your head, and reject the ones that prevent you from completing the challenge. There is no legitimate reason you can not complete the homework (unless you are seriously ill or injured), don’t let your mind make you think that there is.

3. Believe that this is what your body is supposed to do. To get healthy and stay healthy, we must move, breath, stretch, resist, nourish and reconcile–every single day.

4. Stop thinking, worrying and analyzing. Just do it. You have nothing to lose!

5. Be a leader. Tell your friends and family what you are doing, and let them see your efforts whenever possible. Don’t hide your crazy healthy!

How will it work?

Here’s the schedule for adding new habits each week.

As always, feel free to email with your questions, or if you just need encouragement. Nothing makes me happier than sharing this crazy healthy life with you! And feel free to post your photos on my Facebook page.

You may start any time you like, but it’s best to start in May, if you hope to finish by Labor Day. The first week’s habits are offered here.

#TBT: What Can We Learn From Our Past?

When I started this blog, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to say. I just knew I needed to start sharing this incredible journey I have been on for the past twenty years. I learned so many lessons about overcoming common health issues all by myself, and it was hard. I hoped that by sharing here, I might spare others some of the pain and frustration I endured.

Since I started writing, God has been encouraging me, inspiring me, and leading me to keep digging deeper into the reasons behind my struggles, and what I learned from them. It’s been a process of refinement for sure, but it’s led me to exactly what I hoped to find: clarity about why we struggle now more than ever, to get healthy and stay healthy, and how I can help change the culture.

It’s interesting to me, to remember that more than one doctor along the way has suggested that my aches and pains were all in my head. It was laughable, to sit face to face with someone who claimed to be a healer, feeling like I’d been run over by a truck, and be told that my pain was not legitimate.

My pain was very, very real. In a way, though, those doctors were partially right. Part of my problem was in my head. It was what I believed about healing, that stood between me and pain-free living. I believed that we healed ourselves by visiting doctors and taking medicine. A very linear and closed-minded perspective that is common in our culture, even today. It was only when I started looking at my challenges from new angles, that I found what I had hoped for all along. Yoga opened my mind, body and spirit to a multi-dimensional approach to healing and prevention that transformed my life.

Little by little, I started to see that most of my ailments were self-induced. I was allergic to much of the food I was eating, and I was not exercising. Living reactively, rather than proactively, and slowing digging a ditch that I would only escape through years of introspection, exercise, and healing foods.

I talked about the five undeniable truths that I discovered along the way, and how my family history affected my beliefs, on my Facebook page today. These messages are important themes in my book, and the stories of the women in my family help put it all in perspective.

And BTW, in case you are wondering where I’ve been…ever since I started writing my book, I have found it easier to chat on Facebook than write blog posts. Faster, less formal. Please join us there at My Crazy Healthy Life, if you haven’t already. I’ll be back here writing from time to time, but you will find me popping in on Facebook (and on Instagram at mycrazyhealthylife) much more frequently–as always, I’d love to hear from you!

Namaste,

Amber

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#tbt 1972:  Four generations of my family, each with a unique story about how societal “norms” affected their health. The crazy baby on the right is me. : )

My great grandmother Cora (middle) worked on a farm every day of her life, and was fit as a fiddle. My mom always said she was a saint (look closely, you will see the kindness in her eyes). They were poor, and struggled to make ends meet, but real food and constant movement enabled Cora to live a happy, faithful life into her mid-90s.

In contrast, my Grandma Lou sat behind a desk most of her adult life, and watched TV when she was home. I remember her as being very cranky and having a lot of health issues. She died much younger, in her 70s. Lou had a hard life as a single mom, in an era where it was uncommon to be a divorced mother. She graduated college and began work in the 1940s, just as convenience foods began to emerge in the marketplace. Her sedentary lifestyle and lack of proper nutrition led to diabetes, and later heart complications that ultimately took her life.

My sweet mama, Joy (right), was up and down her entire life. She tried to be happy, but she felt bad a lot. She also suffered more than her fair share of traumas. Like her mom, she relied on convenience foods, and rarely exercised. She was known for her red hair and determination (stories you wouldn’t believe, even if I told you). The one challenge she never seemed to master, though, was her health. Her weight fluctuated, and she had frequent headaches, insomnia, and depression. She battled cancer twice, before losing her life to ovarian cancer at the age of 56. I was 26 at the time.

And then there is me, pictured in Mom’s lap. I battled my weight, chronic pain, insomnia, and depression for two decades. Things got markedly better when I found yoga and became a vegetarian, but I still struggled. Six years ago, after having my third daughter in three years, I was diagnosed with autoimmune thyroid disease, and have struggled with it ever since. I am certain that the junk food I grew up on, and my lack of exercise as a kid (I watched a lot of TV) played a major role in all of my health challenges.Thankfully, committing to real food and yoga has taught me how to control my health naturally. I am profoundly grateful for what I have learned on my journey, and that it keeps getting better, day after day, year after year.

As I look at this photo, I can’t help but feel sad for what society did not know then, and hopeful for what we do know now. My parents and grandparents were duped by marketing, and took for granted what processed food and a sedentary lifestyle would do to their health. Today, we are blessed by the emerging awareness of how our food is produced, and how it effects our bodies.

If what we want most is to be happy, we must accept these undeniable truths:

1) We already know what to do, to get healthy–eat real food, and exercise every day.
2) The best things in life are always hard earned–trust the struggle.
3) Worrying gets in the way of our goals–we need to stop worrying about our weight, what we look like, and what others think about us.
4) We are leaders and we need to act the part–every choice we make informs the choices of the people around us.
5) Excuses get in the way of what we want most–do whatever it takes to be the best we can be, every single day.

This is what it means to be crazy healthy. It’s not easy to exercise daily and change how we eat–especially if you have autoimmune disease and chronic pain as I do–but it’s always worth it. My hope is that my kids will grow up knowing this, and pass it on to their children as one of the most important lessons in life. ॐ

The A-B-C’s of Raising Crazy Healthy Kids

1503293_10202971599273913_792128419_nI have three daughters, ages 6, 8, and 9, who love to dance, swim, practice yoga, shoot hoops, play soccer, and invent healthy snacks.  They know that food and exercise can be medicinal, and love to talk about our crazy healthy adventures, with anyone who will listen.

I think this is why people ask me all the time, “How do I teach my kids to be healthy?” The way they say it, it sounds like it’s the hardest thing in the world.

And with good reason, because it is hard to teach kids to be healthy. But not in the way you might think.

It’s not hard because kids don’t like healthy food. It’s not because kids don’t like to exercise. And it’s definitely not because kids resist change.

It’s hard because we often expect our children to do as I say, not as I do, and it almost never works. The reality is that, if want to raise healthy kids, we have to be the change we hope to see in our kids. We have to earn their respect by doing the things that matter, and remember that we are teaching them, with every decision we make.

While some might think this is bad news, I actually think it’s the best news ever. Because being the change we hope to see in our kids is as easy as A-B-C:

A. Practice AWARENESS. Pay attention to how you eat, what you eat, where you eat, and why you eat. Question your behavior a lot. Figure out what you enjoy about getting healthy, and practice it often! Because the truth is that kids learn more from our actions than our words. Remind yourself every day that you are your child’s role model, mentor, and guru, and you have to act the part, if you want them to believe that their choices matter.

B. Examine and share your BELIEFS about food and exercise. What do you think it takes to get healthy, and stay healthy? Are you sure? Decide what you believe, and then talk to your kids every single day about it. Not in an organized, “I’m going to teach you a lesson” kind of way, but in casual conversation. Share stories from your journey, both failures and successes. And ask their opinion a lot. What should we buy at the grocery store today? What percentage of our dinner came from the earth? Why does that matter? Most of all, have fun with it, and seek to understand what your kids enjoy about food and exercise.

C. Be CONSISTENT. Pick two or three healthy habits that you want your kids to embrace, and add them to your daily routine. For me, it’s drinking a large glass of water with lime when I wake, practicing yoga (even if only for 10 minutes), and eating lots of vegetables. It doesn’t matter what we do, as much as it matters that we do it every single day. Start small, pick goals that are reasonable, and stick to them, no matter what. Think about what you want your kids to say about you when they grow up: When I was a kid, my mom always _______. This is where you should start.

The truth is that it’s not easy to teach kids to be healthy, but it’s always worth it, and these ABC’s help a lot. As you work on yourself, enjoy the journey and trust the struggle, because what you want most for your kids, is waiting on the other side.

Have you liked My Crazy Healthy Life on Facebook? Join our community for more insights, tips and conversations about this crazy healthy life!

Merry Christmas, Y’all


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Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you are enjoying the wonders of the season. Over here at My Crazy Healthy Life, we have been busy preparing for Jesus’s birthday party and Santa’s arrival. It’s a season that challenges my commitment to keeping life in balance, so I am using my normal blogging time to be still and reflect on what it all means.

I am not blogging right now, but I am chatting on the Facebook page for My Crazy Healthy Life. Check in with us there, and join the crazy healthy discussion. We’re talking about strategies that help us stay healthy during the holidays, healthy gifts ideas, quick and easy food ideas, and short yoga sequences (“power poses”) that can keep us on track as we wrap up 2013.

I’ll be back here writing soon, with some big plans for 2014. Until then, please know that I sincerely appreciate your interest in my blog, and I wish you and yours a very merry and healthy Christmas!

Namaste~

Amber

40 Days To Go!

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There are 40 days left in 2013, and we have a choice to make. Will we embrace this crazy healthy life, and reject everything that gets in the way? Or will we fall back into old habits, only to regret our indulgences later?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t have fun, and I’m not saying we shouldn’t enjoy the fabulous offerings of the season. It’s all good in moderation! We get a little sideways, though, when we are not intentional. So, make a plan now, as to how you will stay on track in these last few busy–and wonderful!–weeks of the year.

I’m offering help on the Facebook page for My Crazy Healthy Life, by posting “Power Poses” every day until the end of the year. These are the poses and sequences I do, when I am short on time, but need to squeeze in a workout. You can practice one each day, or string them together into a sequence, for a better workout. I suggest practicing for a few minutes each morning and night, but it’s ok if you can only manage once a day. Just do the best you can, and give yourself grace on the days that you can’t.

Crazy healthy is a lifestyle, and you don’t need a New Year to embrace it. All you need is today.

I hope you will join us, and let me know what else I can do to help you get crazy healthy before the year comes to a close!

Namaste,

Amber

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A Lot Can Happen In 6 Weeks

calendarThe are 6 weeks and 1 day left in 2013. Which means there is still time to make this the year that you got crazy healthy.

I know, I know. You’re thinking I’m just plain crazy to suggest such a thing. But the thing is, I know it’s possible, because I’ve done it myself. All I had to do was change what I believe.

The truth is that the last six weeks of the year used to be the most unhealthy days of my life. I gained weight, got sick, and felt bad about myself by the time January 1st rolled around. I didn’t understand why it kept happening, year after year. What was wrong with me, that I couldn’t control myself?

It turns out, I was asking the wrong question. The question is not “What’s wrong with me?” Instead, we must ask “What do I need to do, to break the cycle?” 

When I started examining my habits, I realized I was surrendering my power to things that are not worthy of power–food, alcohol, shopping. I told myself that I “couldn’t resist” this, or “I deserved” that. And of course I “just didn’t have time” to workout, because I had too much to do. All of these beliefs  added up and stole my power. By the time Christmas rolled around, I was sick and had gained ten pounds.

It was the same thing, year after year, for over a decade. I didn’t think it was possible to break the cycle, until I got into yoga. Yoga taught me to be more intentional, and helped me see that I always have a choice, and that every choice matters. By setting an intention, and making choices based on long term goals, instead of short term pleasures, I learned to change my habits.

These days, I rarely get sick at the holidays, and my weight stays constant throughout the year. I’ve reclaimed my power over food and exercise, and I feel so much better about myself! Best of all, the last six weeks of the year are pretty much the same as the other 46, from a health perspective. I make time to eat foods that boost my immunity, and ignore the voices that tell me I don’t have time to workout. I do allow myself to indulge in the treats of the season, but always with awareness and small portions.

The thing that helps me the most, during this busiest time of year, is making daily commitments. I have four disciplines that are non-negotiable, every single day, and they are my priority:

Start the day with warm lemon or lime water: Every morning, when I wake up, I drink a glass of warm water with the juice of a lemon or lime. It boosts my immunity, improves my digestion, and gives me energy.

Veggies first: I try to fill up on veggies whenever possible, every single day. The nutrients help me keep my energy levels high, and reduce sugar cravings. My favorite trick is to eat a can of veggie soup before I leave for parties. When I arrive with a full stomach, it’s easier to indulge in moderation.

Resist a lot: I do a minimum of 30 minutes of intense, resistance-based exercise, every single day, to help boost my immunity and clear my mind. I give myself grace if I miss a day here and there, but I never miss two in a row. For me, yoga is the best form of resistance, but it could also be running, weight lifting, or swimming if yoga’s not your thing. When I practice, I always do the hard stuff first–chair poses, warrior poses, planques, arm balances, and anything else I can think of to work against gravity and build heat in my body. Afterwards, when I have time, I stretch for 5 to 20 minutes. (If you’re not sure how where to begin, read my article about using yoga to build strength here.)

One is my limit: I never deprive myself from tasting the yummies at holiday parties. But I do limit myself to no more than one treat a day. If there are several goodies I want to try, then I will take a bite or two of each, and give the rest to someone else or throw it away (I know it’s a waste, but it’s not really food and it’s better in the trash than in my body!) No matter what, I always make sure my intake adds up to one serving of sweets, or less, each day. This can be challenging, because we are attached to eating what we want, when we want it. It gets easier, however, when we realize that what we truly want is to be fit, healthy, and happy, and sweets get in the way of that goal.

The clock is ticking, and 2013 is slowly slipping away. There is still time, however, to make this the year that you get crazy healthy.

Change what you believe. Create some new habits that boost your immunity, strengthen your body, and keep food in its proper place. I know it seems difficult, but that’s what makes it worthwhile. I promise you can do this! Resolve to get crazy healthy now, and make 2014 the happiest, healthiest New Year of all.

*And by the way…have you liked My Crazy Healthy Life on Facebook? Click here, and join the conversation about staying healthy through the holidays!

Photo: http://www.absopure.com

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Yoga Practice

chattarunga.282104940_stdI don’t know about you, but life around here seems extra busy the past few months! I feel like I am working harder than ever to get everything done for my family, my business, and my community. I am constantly thinking about how I can use my time more efficiently, especially when it comes to my yoga practice. Daily yoga keeps me sane, no matter how chaotic the rest of my life becomes.

Last month, I had a chance to chat with Chandra Davis, the founder of Drink Chia!, about how our busy lives force us to be more efficient in our workouts. The conversation became a blog post for the Drink Chia! website, and something that I also wanted to share with you here. It reminds me, again, that changing our lives begins with changing what we believe.

Reblogged from drinkchianow.com:

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Yoga Practice

I love yoga. It keeps me in shape, clears my mind, and calms my spirit. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing as too much yoga…I would practice all day long, if I could!

But the reality is that I can’t. I have a husband, three little girls, and a business that needs tending to, so I have a limited amount of time to take yoga classes, and practice at home. I do my best to fit it in whenever I can, and try to do at least an hour a day…even if that hour comes in 20 minute increments in the morning, noon, and night.

While it’s never a good thing to rush our yoga, being tight on time does motivate me to make the most out of every practice. It forces me to think about what I want to accomplish, and how I can get it done efficiently. How can I get my heart rate up quickly? Which poses build muscle? Where do I need to create space in my body?

We can do a lot in a short amount of time, if we approach our mat strategically. (Read the full article here.)

Photo: zenzenflow.com

The Thin Line Between Selfish And Selfless

The hardest thing about being a wife and mother is figuring out where you end, and your family begins. It’s like, as soon as two become one, and then two becomes three, four, and five, we wake up and realize that we are only one fifth of the person we used to be.

We have new loves, and the things that we used to love are suddenly the source of our greatest guilt.

We feel bad for sleeping in. We blame ourselves for not doing enough for our families. And we squeeze time with our friends into the spaces between loads of laundry, grocery shopping, and carpools.

This is not me complaining–I know I am blessed. This is me observing that moms have a hard time defining boundaries.

I know I do. And I’ve talked to enough mom friends to know that I’m not alone.

This is why I am such a huge proponent of yoga for moms. It helps us accept that taking care of ourselves is not selfish…it’s actually the most selfless thing we can do.

Yoga keeps us grounded in reality. Regular practice teaches us to observe our thoughts, determine which ones are valid, and reject the ones that are false. It also makes us stronger, wiser, and more flexible…literally and figuratively.

We ultimately learn to flip the question. Instead of:

Is it selfish to take time away from my family to work out?

we find ourselves thinking:

How could I not work out? My family needs me to live a long, happy, healthy life.

We must put the oxygen masks on ourselves first, if we hope to support our families when they need us the most.

The truth is that sometimes I still feel guilty asking for a hall pass to go to yoga. I am thankful, however, that yoga has taught me to observe that thought, without reacting to it. It comes and it goes, and reminds me that choosing to fortify myself is the most selfless thing I can do.

IMG_9149 copyMy girls are the reason I practice yoga every day…

so I can be the fun mom who wants to ride the Alpine Slide in a dress!

Discipline And Dharma

544954_447580958662894_1146899417_nI had an epiphany last night. I realized that this blog is not as much about letting go & living well, as it is about discipline & dharma.

Because, if I have learned anything in 15 years on my mat, it is that discipline is the path to living a purposeful life. Or, as yogis like to say, fulfilling our dharma. Fulfilling our dharma makes us happy, and that is a beautiful thing.

Discipline

I thought discipline was a dirty word before I got into yoga. Why would anyone do the same thing, day after day? What could be more boring?

I liked having the freedom to do whatever I wanted, when I wanted, and not feel guilty about it. I wanted to be able to run, if I wanted to run. To swim if I wanted to swim. And to blow it all off, when I wasn’t in the mood to exercise.

Yoga changed all that. In 1998, I discovered that a little bit of yoga, every day, changed my body, my mind, and my spirit, more rapidly than I thought possible. I started seeing muscles in places I had never had muscles before, my battle with migraines got easier, and I felt more connected to God. I also craved healthy food for the first time ever, and spent less and less time in front of the TV with a pint of Haagan Dazs.

Little by little, and practice by practice, yoga shifted everything I believed about myself, and the world around me. I learned to reject the voices that told me it was ok to skip a day, and embraced the idea that daily discipline makes me happy. It really, truly did, and it still does, after 15 years.

Why did I experience such profound changes? Because, as I eventually learned, yoga is the most efficient practice for uniting the mind, body and soul. I realized that without it, my life felt fractured. With it, however, I incrementally found my way to becoming whole. Yoga became a foundation for living my life on purpose.

Dharma

I was “getting into yoga”, around the same time that Rick Warren made a lot of money teaching us about The Purpose Driven Life. It was the late 1990s, and Rev. Warren challenged us to answer to the question, “What On Earth Am I Here For?”

I remember thinking, as I read Rev. Warren’s book, that this is the exact same question yogis have been asking for thousands of years, in pursuit of their dharma.

Yogis believe that there are eight specific disciplines that help us fulfill our dharma. They are known as The Eight Limbs, and are outlined in great detail in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Here’s what they mean in a nutshell:

1. Interact with others ethically.

2. Treat ourselves respectfully.

3. Prepare our physical body for stillness.

4. Breathe with awareness and intention.

5. Release attachments that interfere with our relationship with God.

6. Cultivate self-awareness.

7. Meditate.

8. Seek unity with God.

This might sound like rhetoric to some, but anyone who has a daily yoga practice will tell you that it’s very real, and it works. When we repeat these practices, over and over again, with intention and awareness, we discover who we are, and how we are supposed to live.

Isn’t that we all want? To know why we are here, and what we are supposed to do with our time on earth?

We all struggle with discipline…it’s human nature. It’s also human nature, however, to be resilient. Trust the struggle, reject the voices that tell you that you can’t, and just do it. Go create yourself!

If you are not sure where to begin, start here. And let me know if you need a little help or encouragement.

Daily discipline will help you live your dharma. And that will make you happy. I promise.

Happy National Yoga Month, my friends!

Namaste,

Amber